Meeting Report: Silicon Valley Speechwriters hear about the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Carmine Gallo was the featured speaker at today’s meeting of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable. Gallo is the author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Gallo is a communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. A former anchor and correspondent for CNN and CBS, he works directly with the world’s top business leaders to help them craft compelling messages, tell inspiring stories and share their innovative ideas with a global audience. Gallo has addressed executives at Intel, Cisco, Google, Medtronic, Disney, The Four Seasons, SAP, Pfizer, Linked In, Chevron, SanDisk, Univision,, and many others.


Gallo encouraged us to watch the many Steve Jobs videos available on YouTube. The overriding theme of every presentation is the simplicity of the message. This is conveyed in one-word slides, supported by demos, props and the very theatrical nature of the way Jobs presents.

The Rule of Three

Gallo shared that in his own work as a communications coach he often challenges the executives he works with to use no more than 40 words on PowerPoint slides in total (not per slide). This forces people to tell stories, which makes the presentation more memorable. He is a believer in the “rule of three” and noted that no matter how complex and comprehensive the Apple products he launched, Jobs would usually tell the audience three things about the device. Indeed, this carried over into his famous 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address where he starts by saying that “Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life, that’s it, no big deal, just three stories.”

Gallo then followed his own advice and shared information from each of the three sections of his book.

Act 1: Create the Story

Back in the dark ages of 2010 when he wrote the book, Gallo recognized the importance of creating Twitter-like headlines in a speech. Of limiting the message to a single 140-character sentence. If a speaker is unable to convey their message in one sentence, speechwriters need to work with them until they can. This is what Daniel Pink did when he wrote speeches based on one sentence for Vice-President Al Gore.

Apple products often have a one-sentence, memorable headline that Jobs used in his speeches and would be repeated in Press releases and advertisements:

The MacBook Air: The world’s thinnest notebook:

Gallo asks his clients if they want to move beyond the level of simply delivering information to really inspiring audiences. Those who want to get better, to deliver the best presentation they can, give a window through which he can work aggressively with that person. The worst are those who claim to already be good presenters. Gallo finds it’s very difficult to get through to them. In this case he’ll go into the financial reasons why great presentation move the needle.

The founder of SanDisk, Dr. Eli Harari once told Gallo:

“Carmine, I know that every $1 change in our stock price is equivalent to $90m and that’s why I bring you in to help tell the best story I can to the investment community.”

Act 2: Deliver the Experience

Speechwriters should avoid making their clients into clones of Steve Jobs. People need to find their own voice. But there are techniques that Apple uses, that TED Talks use, that we should adopt for our clients’ presentations.

One key to delivering an insanely great speeches is to reveal what Gallo calls a “Holy Shit” moment. This is an emotionally charged point in the speech which is a different or surprising way of delivering the content. It takes time, creativity and effort to craft the delivery in a way that touches people emotionally. Very often this can be by telling a story. Audiences need to hear a great story. Most Silicon Valley executives don’t tell stories, they deliver information. Speechwriters should ask clients what is the one thing they want the audience to remember and then discover a way that this be packaged to create an emotionally charged event that is stamped on the brain.

The famous speech Bill Gates gave at TED on malaria is remembered for the “Holy Shit” moment when he released mosquitoes in the auditorium saying “There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience…”

Act 1: Refine and Rehearse

Gallo reinforced the well-known fact that Steve Jobs worked harder on every keynote he gave than most executives ever do. The ones who “wing it” by looking over note cards in the back of the town car on the way to the venue can never appear as “natural” onstage as Jobs did. He would spend hours preparing and rehearsing. He brought the same intensity to his public presentations as he did to the design and manufacture of the iconic technology of our age.

Gallo warned, however, that speechwriters should guard against executives obsessing over the stock photo chosen for their opening slide to the detriment of real rehearsal.

Gallo closed by recommending that, for ideas on how to design presentations planned for audiences of Millennials, speechwriters look at the archives on Slideshare of past winners of the “Best Presentation” contest he helps judge, such as this winner from 2010.

If you are interested in attending future virtual meetings of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable, open to anyone, regardless of location, please sign up on our Meetup page and you’ll be notified.

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